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    Prime Minister Koizumi gives New Year speech

    Prime Minister Koizumi’s neighborliness was on display this morning, as was his diffidence:

    Regarding the PRC and ROK, the Prime Minister said that they have taken advantage of pilgrimages by Japanese government officials to chill relations with Japan: “Foreign governments are interfering in what is for us a matter of the heart. I cannot comprehend their posture that this is a diplomatic issue; there can be none of this closing off of avenues of discussion,” he said, criticizing the positions of both nations for using the Yasukuni Shrine pilgimages as a reason to cease head-of-state visits.

    He also revealed that “an understanding of the crucial importance of the Japan-US alliance and international cooperation” would be a condition for post-Koizumi [power within the LDP]. He indicated that his successor as prime minister would be expected to continue with not only his structural reforms but also his approach to diplomacy.

    At the same time, he pointed out that “it is extremely important for top leaders to gain the support of the citizenry. At the same time, they must gain the cooperation and trust of the members of the Diet. We have reached the era in which both are vital,” and revealed that he thinks the selection of a prime minister by leaders of an intra-party alliance undesirable.

    Party politics since the War has often meant that, while voters obviously selected members of the Diet, much real power even in that body lay with unelected LDP officers.

    The ROK foreign minister has weighed in already:

    South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ki-mun Ban addressed a press conference on 4 January, voicing opposition to Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi’s statement on the same day criticizing the PRC and ROK for refusing to conduct head-of-state visits with Japan because of the Yasukuni Shrine pilgrimage issue: “We want the leaders of the Japanese government to listen to the point of view of neighboring nations and come to a correct perception of history.”

    Foreign Minister Ban sought effort from the Japan side, citing the Yasukuni Shrine issue, the Takeshima (Kor.: Tokuto) Island territorial dispute, and the history textbook issue: “The most important thing from the standpoint of maintaining ROK-Japan relations and cooperation in the Northeast Asia region is for the Japanese government to exert itself to adopt an posture in which it has a correct perception of history and can gain the trust and respect of neighboring nations.”

    DPJ leader Seiji Maehara chimed in, at least as far as the Yasukuni Shrine issue goes, at a press conference in Mie Prefecture: “[The Prime Minister] is losing opportunities to improve relations with other countries. It’s irresponsible.”

    Added at 17:00: The Mainichi also has an English report of the Koizumi speech (including this line that wasn’t in the Nikkei: “The United States is the only nation in the world that sees an attack on Japan as an attack on itself”) and a report on the US government’s thoughts on Japan’s interactions with its neighbors:

    The United States has asked Japan to reconsider its policies on Asia because of concerns about deteriorating Sino-Japanese relationships after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, diplomatic sources have said.

    U.S. President George W. Bush also asked Chinese President Hu Jintao during their summit meeting in Beijing in November last year to discuss issues of history with Japan in connection with the Yasukuni problem, U.S. sources who accompanied the president on his Asian tour said. In reply, President Hu simply said the U.S. presence in Asia was important for China.

    Bush and other top U.S. politicians are apparently afraid that Japan will become isolated in Asia as Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan’s Class A war criminals are worshipped, continue to antagonize and infuriate China and South Korea.

    2 Responses to “Prime Minister Koizumi gives New Year speech”

    1. Jeremy Fuller says:

      I had a problem with “post-Koizumi [power within the LDP]” line in both the Japanese and English versions.


      What exactly is post-Koizumi? I never got a clear handle on that. I thought it was just “life after Koizumi steps down.” Is he basically just saying that “no one will have power after I leave, unless they follow these tenants”?

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      ポスト小泉 is the way they’re referring to the state of the government after September, when Koizumi will leave office. I’m not sure whether the phrasing originated with the LDP or with the media, but you see it a lot nowadays.

      The reason it’s considered a meaningful concept is that Koizumi’s administration has such longevity and such a forceful personality. He’s been Prime Minister since 2001, which in Japan since the bursting of the Bubble is practically so long as to span multiple geological eras. To say the least, not all his reforms have gone through as originally planned, but he’s established a solid, if narrow, precedent for the Diet’s shaking things up even when the civil service leviathan opposes it. Takenaka managed the banking clean-up, and Koizumi later helped engineer a huge electoral victory by drawing a line in the sand when the House of Councillors dissed the Japan Post reform bill package. He’s been Bush’s staunchest ally in Asia in the WOT. He has that weird, brash, idiosyncratic charisma and that air of conviction: even when he’s making dubious decisions like vowing to continue his pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, they don’t seem like stunts. I figure you know all this as information, Jeremy–I’m not saying it to be condescending; I’m just pointing out the particular things that will make the Koizumi administration a hard act to follow and make commentators wonder how things are going to shape up. There’s certainly talent in the upper reaches of the LDP, but Koizumi’s going to be a hard act to follow, and everyone knows it.

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